Praising us for acting neurotypical is *not* Asperger’s / autism acceptance 

A little over a year ago, when I first had the sneaking (strong) suspicion that I’m probably on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, I met with my counselor, a kind and empathetic person whom I’d been meeting with semi-regularly for the past few years.

A couple of sessions before that day, I had informed him of the new discovery.

Although he had gotten to know me well in the several years before that day, and although he was a very nice guy and fairly competent professional, it was I who initially brought up the Asperger’s/autism possibility.  Like every other professional I’d seen, he had “missed it”, altogether overlooking the possibility.  I had overlooked the possibility, too, but then, I’m not a specialist in this area.  Therefore, I’m probably “allowed” to have overlooked it.  It wasn’t my field, and I was by no means an expert.

Despite our long-ish track record (several years), he had come to know me for me, without labels, and without filters.  However, as soon as he realized that I was more than likely correct about being on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, it became clear to me that he no longer saw me as “Laina”, but rather, “Aspergian/Autistic Laina”.

That in itself is not a bad thing.  In fact, it could have been a good thing…

…had it been perceived a little more accurately and handled a little bit better.

Suddenly, my behaviors and quirks were under the scrutiny of an autism lens, and a pathology-based one at that.

The clincher was when he said, “you’re making better eye contact today”.

He meant no ill will by that remark; he meant it as a compliment.

Unfortunately, it’s not.

What follows is the response that I thought of later, long after I had stopped seeing him and started on my own journey.  Although what I have to say may come off a little hostile, I mean no ill will toward him when I make the following statements (they apply to anyone who does this–not just him–I’m speaking more globally now)…

Praising me/us because I’m/we’re making better eye contact during our counseling/therapy session this week, and calling that an improvement, is not  “Asperger’s/autism acceptance”.  Do these professionals (or anyone else, for that matter) have any idea how distracting that is for me or how uncomfortable that makes me?  Compliments usually feel good, but there’s something unsettling about a compliment that is only rendered because I now have shoehorned myself (quite uncomfortably) into their tight little box.

Handing out comments like that doesn’t accept my difference; in fact, it only reinforces the fact that they don’t.  And repeats the expectation that I’m somehow “better” or “improved” if I act less like me and more like them.  Which often feels like a slap in the face to me.  It feels as thought they’re sending me the message that I’m not good enough as I am.  That somehow, I simply don’t “measure up”.  That I need to be Less Like Me.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t want anyone to give me a complete “pass”, either.  Letting me off the hook too easily and failing to be an effective guide for me by making endless excuses for me and not even nudging me to do my best is just as detrimental.  At that point, if someone did/does this, it probably means they’ve given up, assuming that just because I’m autistic, I’m also intellectually disabled.  I can understand.  I can learn.  But by failing to hold us to some kind of standard, they’re essentially setting us up to fail, to shirk responsibility.  This induces pathological avoidance, and we never truly grow up and reach any kind of potential.

“Reaching our potential” might be an annoying buzzphrase, but it’s also the truth, and a beneficial concept, as well as a necessary part of growing up.  It’s also a human right.  We should be encouraged to reach our capacity and live the best life we possibly can.  That’s only fair.  That’s part of a parent’s or teacher’s job anyway.

I simply want to be accepted for being me.  Accepted for my quirks, accommodated for my not-so-strengths (we all have them), and embraced for my differences.  My brain runs on a different frequency, not another solar system, and certainly not a disorder.  It’s only a disorder when looked at through a different and narrow lens, but then, through my lens, other neurotypes look disordered to me.

I’d rather live in a world where those differences are celebrated, across the sturdy bridge, on both sides.  Where the traffic flows equally in both directions.  Coming and going, giving and taking, sharing and receiving.  The efforts will find us all richer in the end. 🙂


Related Posts:

My Autistic Personality Is Not a Disease, and My Characteristics Are Not ‘Symptoms’ ~ January 22, 2017

How I ‘Came Out’ As An Aspie / Autistic To a Patient… ~ December 1, 2016

Why the ‘Rest’ of the World Is Largely Unaware of People On the Spectrum ~ July 10, 2016

Most People Don’t Practice Acceptance of Autism ~ June 17, 2016

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36 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on Aspie Under Your Radar and commented:
    Oh, yeah. This is so very true. Sheesh – it’s one of the reasons I just don’t bother bringing up Autism with people. It’s just not a good use of my time to navigate their biases.

    Until I’m registered as a 501(c)(3) and can be compensated for my services, I’m not providing “ad hoc education” to the neurotypical world on a case-by-case basis. They can go their own way, and I’ll go mine — I’m autistic, after all.

    I’m good at that! I’ve got skillz. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oooh, I like your approach, sister! Skillz indeed! (Meant in a genuine way of course!) 😊

      Thank you for the reblog! 🤗💖

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for all the reblogs, girl! So awesome to know like minds and feel the support! Always standing with you in solidarity 😊💞

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I sure would!! Omg that would be too cool!! Thank you! 🤗🤗. I’ll show up as an email with the word “consciousness” in it 😊❤️

          Like

  2. Turn it around on the eye contact… “Hey, you’re doing a great job not trying to force eye contact with me”👍 The world would be a much better place if everyone’s little quirks were accepted & even celebrated. Imagine how much more could be accomplished if people weren’t spending so much time & energy trying to become Barbie or Ken (not the best examples but you know where I’m going with this, I hope😏) Acceptance of the whole person would include support, automatically​. Then people could spend their energy reaching their personal best. 💞🙌💜💛💚💗😘😎

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Oh so true. I’ve always hated being told ‘you’re doing better!’ Like my nature is some horrible flaw. I’ve conditioned myself to be as nuerotypical as I can be out of necessity but I’ve been telling myself over the years ‘you shouldn’t have to’ not 24/7 anyway. And supports, therapists, family, friends…they should know best that praising our most ‘normal’ [neurotypical] (i hate correcting people on that, dont you?)behaviors isn’t close to accepting who we are.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is so timely for me as a mother to an 8 yo ASD, ADHD boy. He has started making comments like ‘I’ll try to be normal’ or ‘I know I’m not acting normal’ etc and its so heartbreaking to hear but then society does expect him not to flap or run amok etc. He’s also questioning why he needs to have meds. Comments like “No one likes the REAL me” or “No one can put up with me without my meds” are also coming through. I just don’t know what to do to help me to assimilate but also to not squash his beautiful, quirky and yes, weird (& wonderful) personality. If you can offer any advice on how to handle this, please do!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, my dear friend 💐💐. I wish I had easy answers 💞. The only way around it is through it, I’m afraid. *If* it’s possible to home school or private school, I recommend that. If not, it’s tougher but not the end of the world 😊. The best thing in this situation is just to keep doing what you’re doing. Stand by him, encourage him, support him, be there for him, and love him 😁. If you can swing it, try to get him involved in cool, constructive outlets; my mom suggested karate after she saw us playing Streetfighter on Nintendo for hours on end lol 😉. We excitedly agreed. It worked really, really well for us! Do your very best to make up for the hardship he faces at school (even though you didn’t cause it); he’ll need a soft place to fall each day when he gets home. If you can, try to find a good professional for him to talk to, even if it’s just to vent his feelings and anxiety. The important part (and this can be tough) is that the therapist is well-versed in the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, and understands the positive aspects. Some of my spectrum brothers and sisters might get a little mad at me for recommending this, but Neurotribes (the book by Steve Silberman) is a good place to start; I’ve read it, but haven’t looked at the back of the book, but I’ve heard there’s a list of good, progressive professionals there 😊

      Hope that helps! Please feel free to contact me out here in the open, or privately through my contact page (up in the main menu on this site), and I’m happy to have a supportive convo with either or both of you (I can even talk over Skype at work) 😁🤗💖

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for much for your response and suggestions. I guess, for me, I struggle to be able to explain to him why on one hand I’ll say ‘everyone loves you, you’re great’ and then on the other hand I’ll say “try to be more like everyone else”. very frustrating and confusing to him and what can I say? they are contradictory sentences and of course don’t make sense to him, they are at odds with each other. You are correct though, I always provide a safe and loving environment for him to decompress following a day in the trenches (i.e. school!).

        Liked by 1 person

        1. You rule, my friend😎. I imagine that parenting is like walking a tightrope? On one hand, you’re wanting to support your kid(s) and love them for who they are, and provide an environment in which they grow up feeling good about themselves. And on the other hand, you’re wanting to provide guidance, because kids do things wrong sometimes and they’ll need to be corrected. It sure does feel contradictory inside, doesn’t it? 💞. Nobody really gives us any information on how to walk this tightrope, either 💐. So it’s day by day, one event at a time. Is that what it’s like? 😊❤️

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  5. It does strike me, having done all my reading for the last year or so, that much of the coping mechanisms the ‘professionals’ want autistic people to learn is how to mask, how to pass for normal, how to fake it. And I wonder who this actually benefits. I spent years, before even knowing what I was, masking, pretending and honestly, it made me feel awful, fake, a fraud, and it only emphasised the gap between me and ‘the others’. So are these mechanisms actually helping autistic people or helping those NTs around them feel better because the neuro-untypical is not being quite so ‘odd’? It seems all geared to making autistic people not so autistic (which we know is not possible, regardless of the tools given to us, in our heads we are still what we are), and it seems to me more to make the world feel better rather than the person it SHOULD be helping. Surely the path to take is to help people accept themselves, learn things that make them feel better even if it seems ‘weird’ to the outside world, rather than appear normal, and change society so that it is more accepting and more helpful to anyone who isn’t the standard NT. There have been some small changes, supermarkets having quiet hours specifically for autistic people, but its only a start.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so much for commenting, Leanne 😊. I just want to say that I think you’re an amazing mom for being so aware and open while your son is still so young. He will benefit from this–heck, he probably already is now 👏🏼👏🏼💪🏼🌷💙

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        1. Thanks Laina. He’s come a long way. I’m learning along with him, about myself, my husband, my other children – we’re an autistic family, lots of quirks, lots of crazy, somewhat isolated and sometimes lonely. I’ve become an advocate, a challenger, a grizzly mummy bear, a supporter. My heart has been broken, my heart has burst with love. Life is never dull, never boring but also kind of relentless, stressful and tiring. Thank you for blogs like these that enable us to reach out, learn and communicate with each other.xxxx

          Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you, I’m glad it came across the right way (too often people misconstrue what I say in my rather blunt manner), I did wonder if it would be taken the wrong way. Your son sounds very very smart boy!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally agreed! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼. Thank you SO much for writing this 😘. You raise an excellent question: who really benefits?

      I think we do in the short term, by avoiding criticism, outcasting, and persecution. But in the long term, all we’ve done is conform to those who insist upon it. At the end of the day (or the decade) I’m exhausted. I had forgotten who I am. To the point where I had to do some serious soul-searching and reconnecting–at age 38.5, no less. And at the end of that same day/decade, the rest of the world is no better off for our efforts, either, for they have not had to expand their minds and open their eyes. The world keeps turning, but it even after a revolution, it ends up right back where it was before. 💓🌷💓

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It does seem to send the message to autistic people that they are not allowed to be themselves, that that is wrong, and they have to conform, as you say. Like you, I had forgot who I was, I was so busy trying to be what I thought others were, what they expected from me, what I expected from me. And it took me longer than you to find who I am, although that’s still ongoing. I do think until they stop trying to force us into that box, nothing will improve.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. ^^This! 😊. The box is no help. It doesn’t do any good 💙. I’m glad to see perceptions slowly shifting, and I do see a shift, but it’s definitely a gradual process and it’s only in its beginning stages. I think more positive changes will happen; but it’s probably going to take (quite) a while 🌺💖🌟

          Liked by 1 person

  6. That ‘box of normalization’ is depicted quite well in the (mid-seventies) “Stepford Wives” movie.

    1) the goal is the destruction of the problematic individual. No, not the behavior(s). You as a person are to be destroyed – which is why ‘person with…’ is so damnably popular in society. They’re lying to themselves. In truth, they see ‘evil autism’ alone, and they’re ***forced*** to add ‘person with’ to not see us collectively as a curse. (It still sneaks out at times)

    2) those doing the ‘labors of destruction’ – protestations to the contrary notwithstanding – are motivated strictly by matters of self-interest. They are the chief beneficiaries of such ‘forcible alterations’ at the least (if not the sole beneficiaries…)

    3) the goal is not ‘satisfactory approximations’ (of Nt-ness). Rather, their goal is perfection – and not a static frozen-in-marble perfection, but a living breathing ***responsive*** perfection…

    Always smiling. Never bothered, no matter how cruel one’s master might be. Always say, think, do the precise right thing – responding in real time to the subtlest inclination. Perfect mind reading, beyond that even of a mind-controlled ***slave***. Be a good ***trophy*** – and this knowing oneself to be such a thing – a tool, an object, this and nothing more.

    No longer an individual. No, merely an appendage – like a fingernail – of the person who controls you. Socially dead – anything you do that’s successful- your owner takes full credit, and reaps the rewards. You fail, it’s your fault, and your master punishes your rebellion.

    There’s a special term for such a being as the one described:

    A narcissistic extension.

    What every Stepford husband bought, paid for, and ultimately received.

    Liked by 2 people

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